A vile personal attack on GMO scientist Kevin Folta

I have oft stated that those who lack scientific evidence resort to ad hominem personal attacks as their last resort. That’s all they’ve got, so the science deniers have to go double down on their personal attacks, often in the form of putrid hate speech.

I’ve written frequently about the personal attacks from the pseudoscience side, especially in the anti-vaccination cult. They’ve attacked Paul Offit. They’ve used anti-Semitic bigotry to attack Dorit Reiss, one of the writers here. They’ve attacked Senator Richard Pan, co-sponsor of SB 277 which mandates vaccination of children in California, with horrific violent threats and Nazi imagery.

The hate speech of the antivaccine lunacy is legendary, and apparently the anti-GMO version of the anti-science world has been taught well, confirming my suspicion that all anti-science cults get together at their annual meeting in the Bermuda Triangle to share strategies. I’m kidding, of course. Mostly I’m kidding.

As I wrote previously, a PLoS blog was posted that served as an attack piece on GMO scientist Kevin Folta – a respected University of Florida plant genetics researcher. The PLoS post, written by Paul D. Thacker and Charles Seife, attacked Dr. Folta for a whole host of sins, including a claim that he was more or less directing Monsanto’s strategies for dealing with GMO labeling laws.

Within a couple of days, after withering criticism across the science community, PLoS removed the attack piece with a whimpering non-apology apology.

In the meantime, character assassinations against Dr. Folta started.  Here’s one posted in craigslist, which is truly a vile personal attack.




This cowardly post refers to Dr. Folta’s mother. According to him, the attack was personally offensive:

[infobox icon=”quote-left”]Tomorrow would be my mother’s birthday, she’d be 69 years old, if she was still alive. She died a few years ago, way too young, and we all still miss her tremendously. [/infobox]

I don’t understand the hate of this coward who, because he really has no science, no knowledge, but plenty of ignorance, decides to attack someone on craigslist, the bastion of scams and rip-offs. And that hatred is based on a retracted, gonzo journalism piece that had all of the research quality of an elementary school newspaper. Oh, sorry, I think I’m insulting all those fine kids who do their best job on elementary school newspapers.

I don’t know Dr. Folta personally, but I do know other scientists who get attacked frequently. David Gorski, using snark and mockery, laughs at the anti-science crowd, entertaining skeptics everywhere. Dorit Rubinstein Reiss tries to ignore it, and sticks to facts. Others know that they win on the science, and write popular books to describe how their science ignorance can harm people.

Of course, I personally just throw back the ad hominem attacks right in their face, because if one has all the evidence, like I do, I have no patience with those nut jobs.

If I could give one tiny piece of advice to Dr. Folta–ignore the ignorant jerks. Or mock them with all the humor you can muster. You are their targets because they think they have something on you, but they don’t. I put up with personal attacks all across the internet. I just laugh, because they are just viruses, and I’m immune.

I often refer to Ernst’s Law which states:

[infobox icon=”quote-left”] If you are researching complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and you are not hated by the CAM world, you’re not doing it right.[/infobox]

This  Law refers to Edzard Ernst, an academic physician and researcher in the UK who specializes in analyzing and criticizing the claims of complementary and alternative medicine.

Replace “complementary and alternative medicine” with anti-GMO, and we have the Folta Corollary to Ernst’s Law:

[infobox icon=”quote-left”] If you are researching genetically modified organisms (GMO) and you are not hated by the anti-GMO world, you’re not doing it right.[/infobox]

It’s sad that hatred from the anti-science side has to be a badge of honor instead of the evidence and facts, but that’s where we are. We have become a world where science is hated, unless it fits some predetermined conclusion. Sigh.

Note. I identify Dr. Kevin Folta as a “GMO scientist,” a “label” that some people don’t like. My goals in this blog are twofold–first, to frame the discussion between those who use science and those who deny it. And second, to optimize search parameters to make certain people who  do internet searches of complex topics find my articles. People aren’t going to search “University of Florida plant geneticist Kevin Folta emails FOIA request.” They’re going to search “GMO scientist emails.” 

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The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor

Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!

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  • SageThinker

    So much bias here, it’s ridiculous. So someone posted something on Craigslist … that sucks … but…. was the PLoS blog truly an “attack piece” and is everything that is critical of someone who is tight with the GMO industry necessarily an “ad hominem” and “attack piece”? Does something that calls out a behavior qualify as “ad hominem”? The bias and the lemming-like crowd self-reinforcement here is amazing.

    I’ve personally had dialogue with Dr Gorski, by the way, and was attacked by he and his own on his blogs, for citing research and using logic and reason. I was attacked with horrible ad hominems and ridiculed in ways that completely lacked integrity (like numerous strawman arguments and the like) and then banned by Dr Gorski altogether. So on that topic, my personal experience was with group of so-called “skeptics” who seemed more like piranha in the water smelling blood of a new victim to massacre, and i am speaking of the behavior that i encountered.

    Folta is pretty in with Monsanto. That’s not in question, is it? What’s the ad hominem? I’m not speaking of that stupid Craigslist thing which is horrible, but about the PLoS blog (that i didn’t even get to read because it’s retracted, but have seen the excerpts quoted by Folta, which honestly didn’t seem to be as bad as he makes it out to be)…. so.

    • SageThinker

      So much circular reasoning here, and lack of integrity.

    • It was retracted. So, let’s assume it was a gonzo garbage piece. Case closed.

      • SageThinker

        No assumptions. Why should we use assumptions when we can use evidence? Case not exactly closed.

    • Oh wait, Dr. Gorski pointed out your foolish beliefs? Excellent, that means you’re just an ignorant loser. Good luck with that. I’m sure your mommy will cuddle you after your crying and whining.

      • SageThinker

        There you go, Skeptical Raptor, illustrating *exactly* the kind of ad hominem non-dialogue that i speak of. Thank you so much for making my point clearly, with evidence to back it up. How can you really write things like this, and hold up your head?

        • rebeccagavin

          Or maybe you’re SageDrinker?

          • SageThinker

            What is that supposed to mean? An unsupported and out of line ad hominem.

            • rebeccagavin

              It mean you dizzy like instead of thinkin’ you been drinkin’

            • SageThinker

              Sounds like YOU are the drunk one.

    • Chris Preston

      was the PLoS blog truly an “attack piece”

      The authors of the PLoS Biologique blog completely misrepresented an e-mail they wrote about.

      This included claiming the title was written by Kevin Folta. It wasn’t. It was an e-mail that had been written by someone completely different and forwarded to Kevin Folta as a FYI.

      They also claimed the e-mail “advised Monsanto on ways to defeat a political campaign in California to require labeling of GMO products”. It did nothing of the sort. Firstly, it was about a labeling campaign in Colorado, not California. Secondly, it was a stinging critique of the strategy that Monsanto and food companies were using against labeling laws.

      Given the authors of the piece had access to the e-mail in question, why would they misrepresent it so badly?

      On that basis alone, I would consider it an attack piece. The authors deliberately misrepresented material in an effort to dam,age Kevin Folta’s reputation.

      I’ve personally had dialogue with Dr Gorski, by the way, and was attacked by he and his own on his blogs, for citing research and using logic and reason.

      You are misrepresenting what happened here. Anyone who wants to see the exchanges can go back through the comments and see what you were doing. Gorski banned you from commenting, because you were essentially spamming. Posting the same stuff over and over again.

      • SageThinker

        The PLoS perspective basically used polemic glasses but didn’t lie per se. Kevin Folta did not write the subject line “CONFIDENTIAL: …” but he did write “Re: CONFIDENTIAL: …”. It was California, not Colorado — duh! Stupid mistakes but not exactly lies. Folta did write some advice to a Monsanto person. I don’t care. You know, his advice made perfect sense. Let’s be honest, the cost issue on labeling is a no-go. It would not cost much to label. I don’t care. I’m not relying on any research by Kevin Folta in my study of glyphosate in the human food supply. There are many very respectable objective scientists who have studied glyphosate. Kevin Folta is only a science communication powerhouse, not a researcher per se in matters of import. He received some travel money and was in close communication with Monsanto. That’s of no import to me. What i care about is the reality of the human food supply.

        • Chris Preston

          The PLoS perspective basically used polemic glasses but didn’t lie per se.

          Clearly that is a matter of what you want to believe.

          The section of the blog post went:

          “The article also does not report on an email titled “CONFIDENTIAL: Coalition Update” from the researcher to Monsanto in which the scientist advised Monsanto on ways to defeat a political campaign in California to require labeling of GMO products.[xlvii]”

          Where the reference is to the e-mail in question.


          Now Kevin Folta did not even write “Re:CONFIDENTIAL: Coalition Update” as you claim. This is automatically done by e-mail programs when an e-mail is being responded to. I suspect you know this, but are trying to put a spin on it.

          However, the authors of the blog post knew all this because they had access to the e-mail (as indicated by their citation). They chose instead to use the wording above “titled “CONFIDENTIAL: Coalition Update” from the researcher to Monsanto”. When you have to get 4 e-mails down in the exchange to find that header.

          The authors of the blog post would also have known that this e-mail was originally from a group in Colorado and that Kevin Folta was travelling to Colorado to speak. This is clear in the e-mail and simply could not be confused with California.

          As for offering advice, the e-mail starts off with the words “One big criticism…” Criticism can be construed as giving advice, but it is more accurately described as criticism.

          I’m not relying on any research by Kevin Folta in my study of glyphosate in the human food supply.

          No you wouldn’t. Because you have a bias and only see what you want to see. Even if these e-mails from Kevin Folta did not exist, you still wouldn’t rely on any of his research.

          He received some travel money and was in close communication with Monsanto. That’s of no import to me.

          Quite clearly it isn’t. That would be why you have made several comments about it.

          • SageThinker

            You, like Folta in his response blog, are being rather picayune, is what i think. The PLoS piece was sloppy as journalism but didn’t seem to deliberately lie. You’re playing semantic games here. The details are on the table, and everyone who cares can see what the reality is.

            As for your assertion that i have a bias — take a bit of your own medicine please.

            • Chris Preston

              I find it hard to see how a journalist when they have access to a document can write something that does not appear in the document by accident.

              The proof is really in the pudding. If David Gorski or Jon Entine had done something like this, you would not be dismissing it as “sloppy journalism”.

            • SageThinker

              I think if John Entine or David Gorski wrote something mistaken of this kind, i would call it sloppy blogging.

            • rebeccagavin

              Are you sure you’re not an oregano “thinker”?

            • SageThinker

              Please cease these ad hominems.

            • rebeccagavin

              Please cease your misinformed ramblings.

        • rebeccagavin

          Tell me, do you burn sage while you are doing all this “thinking”?

          • SageThinker

            Empty ad hominem. You must have no substantial criticism.

            • rebeccagavin

              Oh, I do. But I am just here for comic relief.

            • SageThinker

              Then couldn’t you bother to be funny?

            • rebeccagavin

              I could never be as funny as you, bro.

  • Diddly doo

    “I have oft stated that those who lack scientific evidence resort to ad hominem personal attacks
    as their last resort. That’s all they’ve got, so the science deniers
    have to go double down on their personal attacks, often in the form of
    putrid hate speech.” Septic Rantor

    Perhaps you should have a word with cupcake (AKA capcrunch). It seems his ability to post is based on not a lot more than ad hom.

    “They have become so immersed in their ideology that they see criticism of their ideology as a personal attack on themselves.” Preston

    Most septic sites are a smorgasbord of expletives and ad hom, looks like their pro vaccine rants are starting to leak – big.

    • Apparently, you’re lacking in the simplest logic, but what should I expect from a science denier.

      Here’s the thing. If I say “your statement is unsupported by any evidence…you’re an asshole.” That’s not an ad hominem attack. The evidence is on our side, so we get to mock you and to tell you what you are with all the impunity that we can muster.

      So, grow up. Get some evidence. Or STFU troll. And yes, you are defined as troll, given the dozens of posts you make here. I mean get a job dude.

  • Chris Preston

    If you have the evidence to back your case, there is no need to resort to ad hominems. When people do this to me, I tick that off as a win.

    One of the unusual aspects of these sorts of attacks is that those making them will complain at great length about you making personal attacks on them if you start criticising their ideology and providing facts to refute their position. They have become so immersed in their ideology that they see criticism of their ideology as a personal attack on themselves.

    I see PLoS is still in damage control over this. As they should be.

    • I agree.

      I hope Dr. Folta moves on, but he seems to be truly hurt by these attacks.

      • Chris Preston

        Many scientists of my acquaintance are quite protective of their reputations. Certainly if you do a lot of extension to end users, like I do, reputation is really important. Having people falsely attack your reputation can be pretty hurtful. When they bring your family into it, it becomes really personal.

        Having been through this mill (but in a much smaller fish bowl), I fully understand how hurt Kevin is feeling. My realisation was that people were doing this because they could argue about the case I was making and so were trying to get me out of the discussion. That made me even more determined to stay involved. I hope that Kevin does as well.

        • rebeccagavin

          Kevin has an amazing ability to remain civil with even the most frothing idiots, and he has certainly seen what the know nothings are capable of. I imagine he is very hurt, because he has been, what I would call “open-hearted” in his efforts to help people learn. Some people don’t want to learn, and you can’t make them, nyah nyah nyah.


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  • Vickie Zisman

    I think he had it easy actually. Just recall the gynecologists doing terminations in their clinics. Some were murdered.

    • Diddly doo

      Or the anti pharma doctors who are being bumped off, it goes on everywhere. Anyone who is a doctor who points out that the evidence for vaccine efficacy is bull or based on medical peer reviewed science (AKA sacred cow masquerading as nonsense) they seem to have mud slung at them for telling the truth.

      Problem with GMO is we don’t need them. Food security is a logistics issue, there is plenty of world food it is just getting it past bribery, corruption and lack of transport and fridges that is the problem.

      Monsanto has purely marketed the insecurity about food to suit market share. Assholes like Monsanto who patent generic crops from indigenous populations should be sent to prison for food fraud.

      • Diddly doo

        Politicians love the sexy vaccine idea – just needs money. What they can’t sell as sex is toilet provision and clean water, also means they have to make something happen. Also if you clean up the water and sort out sanitation and food supply there is no case for vaccination because no one gets ill.

        Don’t we just love the idea of the rich nations staying that way and giving aid to poor countries – the idea of self autonomy and good infrastructure just isn’t sexy enough.

        Could you see Septic Raptor, digging latrines and getting a hard on?

        • ChadwicktheJones

          Yes, clean water and sanitation… Of course those things help, though not totally. Take chickenpox for instance– we still have more than 3 million cases a year in the US. Sooooo… clean water and sanitation? Okay then. LOL misinformation LOL moron.

          • Diddly doo

            “Take chickenpox for instance– we still have more than 3 million cases a year in the US”. Chad

            And your point is?


            “The only malady that occurred
            was when 34 of the children developed chicken pox. They were immediately
            put to bed and given only pure water or fresh fruit juice. They all recovered
            quickly without after-effects. Investigations revealed that these children
            whilst at school, had been swapping their healthy lunches for unhealthy
            conventional foods, so this outbreak was not altogether surprising.” The Hopewood children

            Maybe you need to stop reading medical peer review, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Most American kids eat complete crap, they exported fast food, wherever that goes disease follows, obesity, contrary to medical opinion is not a result of a deficiency in gastric banding.

            • Diddly doo

              I suppose the idea that staying well is a continual task rather than a sexy firefight after years of neglect doesn’t give you a hard on.

              No wonder you spent 30 years learning to fight. Maybe you might grow up and realise that health is a daily event, not something you do – eventually.

              I could have saved you 30 years of wasted effort

            • Diddly doo

              It is wrong to threaten people rather than discuss. GMO is still bullshit science though.

            • David J. Drummond

              You need to give it a rest my sides are hurting. Your too funny, and so very wrong about GMOs. stop googling crap and start reading scientific papers. it’s boring and not for stupid people, but so far i’ve only read twenty, and it just keeps on going. So far in my research nothing is out of the ordinary or dangerous. So quit bullying the smart people and practice what you preach and quit being soo vacuous and intellectually lazy.

            • Diddly doo

              what is the difference between googling crap and reading scientific papers David. Medical peer review is in chaos after many ex editors of BMJ NEJM and Lancet all say that 50% of published papers are nonsense. Monsanto and its terminator gene tech is a great example of stupid gone mad. Why the hell should anything else this company produces being ethical, valuable or relevant in world food safety?

            • gaist

              You do realize you’re replying to yourself, right?

            • Let him keep going. It’s kind of amusing.

          • Don’t bother trying to use intelligence with Diddly doo. He flunked third grade science, and all he does is troll this blog. He’s pathetic.

      • Oh, you go with lies and misinformation too. Is your mommy proud that you’re a troll?

        • Diddly doo

          Gosh, you must be infected with the Ad Hom virus. So is that one of your longer sentences? What a weird blog, you cut and paste of some tired old indentikit septic manual then expect people to agree with you!

          Where is the scientific inquiry rantor? I mean you need more than highschool biology to run a blog – get with the programme and let’s see some cutting edge discussion. Plonker

          How many times did you repeat science in 30 years? It’s not that hard to learn.

          If being a troll is pointing out fallacy and being sceptical about dubious medical claims then, sure, I’m a troll and proud.

          Now, let’s talk about how you are coping with medical peer reviewed failure and the fact that critics of this broken method are mainly coming from within that world, ie the editors of the medical peer reviewed journals.

      • Monsanto patents generic crops? Lol, citation? If this is true, why would people be so upset about those big scary GMO thingies? Or is this a special secret that only you and the enlightened illuminati are privy to?

        • Diddly doo

          Large transnational corporations like Monsanto, DuPont and
          others have been investing into biotechnology in such a way that patents
          have been taken out on indigenous plants which have been used for
          generations by the local people, without their knowledge or consent. The people then find that the only way to use their age-old knowledge is be to buy them back from the big corporations. In
          Brazil, which has some of the richest biodiversity in the world, large
          multinational corporations have already patented more than half the
          known plant species. (Brazil is estimated to have around 55,000 species of flora, amounting to some 22% of the world’s total. India, for example, has about 46,000.)”


          You are either lazy or to stupid to google anything. What did you spend 30 years doing, propping up some bar somewhere reading septic manuals!

          • Diddly doo

            Oh Septic Rantor, I forgot, you are blind to blaspheme a true convert believer. What have you got a degree in?

            • Diddly doo

              Next you will be telling us vaccines save lives and more psalms from your lord Offit or his lordships Bill and Mel on how they banished pestilence. How do you live with yourself!

            • How much more meaningless bullshit are you going to continue to spew all over this page? Your degree is clearly in gullible and paranoid.

            • Diddly doo

              Another big sentence – good boy

          • “…too stupid…” Ironic.

            On to your other unsupported “GMOs-are-evil-even-if-I-don’t-understand-them”


            Although she gets good press from left-wing and environmental publications, Shiva is widely considered by the scientific community to be unbalanced (in both senses of the word) for advocating unsound, anti-social policies and promulgating disproven theories about agriculture. One hopes her remarks to university students are placed in perspective by someone who knows better.

            Read more, please:

            Your cited article makes many stupendous claims with no references besides Shiva, and gives multiple examples of where companies tried to patent existing strains and had them rejected.

            But don’t worry, stupid people won’t read that far. Oh, you didn’t either? Shocked.

            • Diddly doo

              The issue here is that Monsanto applied to patent indigenous crops so that it could then control the sale. It is rather weird that you think this kind of behaviour is ok.

            • Chris Preston

              The issue here is that Monsanto applied to patent indigenous crops so that it could then control the sale.

              I can find no evidence that this has occurred. I think you must be mistaken.

            • I don’t think it’s ok at all. But their patent would never be approved. Translation: this never happened! Read the link I referenced again.

    • An Editor at Wikipedia used a public name while editing some of the nonsense out of their Abortion article. I mean it had crap like “abortions lead to a higher risk of cervical and breast cancer.” Nonsense.

      The anti-abortion crowd then went after him by calling the university (he was a Pediatrics professor along with being an attending physician), and claiming he was a pedophile. That had children call. It was horrific. Although he was exonerated, you know how this dung sticks to the wall.